OZ Cabbie July 2015
This month we finally saw the regulators take action against UberX drivers in court in Sydney and Melbourne. The charges were basically the same: driving without accreditation and driving an unlicensed hire car.
Given that the proof of guilt was overwhelming, a guilty plea should have been in the can within half an hour. But true to form Uber had hired the best and brightest lawyers and barristers that money can buy and they very successfully turned the hearings into a farce, succeeding in getting the cases adjourned several times. Both matter are still running and nobody can predict when ‘judgement day’ will arrive.
“Arrestinguber” vigilante, Russell Horwarth also had a bit of court action. Six days apart he made his citizen’s arrests, one at Sydney Airport and then five in one hit at Leichhardt Oval. At both events ABC cameras were rolling and he made Lateline, 7.30 Report and ABC News Breakfast. This was followed by interviews on talkback radio.
Uber was not amused and applied for an interim injunction in the NSW Supreme Court to prevent Russell from continuing to sting its drivers. It was, unfortunately, granted and Russell will be back in court on 6 October.
We cover all three cases in the one article in Uber continues to take the piss.
Meetings, meetings, meetings.
Earlier this month a small group of hire car and taxi network executives met secretly at Chiefly Square to discuss what action they could take against Uber. Whether any action plan was developed has not been revealed.
Then on 22 July, an extremely well organized meeting, attracting around 150 Sydney taxi operators, was held at Bobbie’s Taxi Base in Marrickville. Chairs for everybody inside the taxi shed, an audio system and delicious Indian food for all afterwards. The single topic on the agenda was what to do about UberX. As it turned out, it was more a talkfest than a serious attempt to formulate an action plan. That I’m told will come later. However, it gave the president of the NSW Operator and Driver Association, Annie Turner, an opportunity to promote another meeting to be held on 10 August at the Mercure Airport Hotel, organized, she said, by herself and the NSW Taxi Council. The Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, is expected to attend. If you are a bailee driver don’t bother turning up. Only owners and operators are welcome.
Who is trying to rally bailee drivers? Nobody! Which is weird given they are the ones most affected by Uber. Hello TWU!
A consortium of taxi networks is planning to launch a new national app “ihail” to take on ingogo, goCatch and Uber. Unfortunately its launch has been delayed thanks to the ACCC. Full story in ACCC delays taxi cartel’s launch of new ‘ihail’ app.
As for the battles between Uber and state regulators Queensland seem to have taken the lead issuing $1.7 million in fines to UberX drivers. Its latest deterrent is 6 demerit points for getting caught driving UberX. Great idea.
In Perth it looks like the taxi industry may have lost the battle against Uber. Well, that depends on how one interprets a Green Paper released by the WA Government. Talk is that the whole point-to-point passenger transport industry will be deregulated and government licences will cost the same whether for taxis, hire cars or UberX cars. Has the WA Government gone troppo or is it leading the world in taxi reform? Was the Green Paper co-authored by Professor Allan Fels? It sure feels like it.
And not to be outdone NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance has set up an independent taskforce to review commercial all point-to-point transport including UberX. It is headed by Professor Gary Sturgess and Dr Tom Parry, two economist from the same mold as Fels. More about that in the next issue.
May commonsense prevail.